Re: Proposal Writers -- LONG --

Subject: Re: Proposal Writers -- LONG --
From: Mary Howe <thunder -at- IDIR -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 12 Apr 1997 11:52:50 -0500

This discussion of proposal writing is very interesting. So far the
people who have responded have been proposal writers for companies. I'm
an independent tech writer. I've only done three proposals - two Small
Business Innovation Research (SBIR) proposals and one NIST Advanced
Technology Program (ATP) proposal, all been for very small companies or
individuals. I have a couple of comments to add, and a couple of


John Posada is absolutely right. It is guerilla writing. On one
project I worked until 1 a.m. to finish. Then I called my client (who
was up) to come and get it. It was still printing when he arrived. I
asked him to wait in my living room, but he followed me down the
darkened hallway where my family was sleeping. Sheesh. I hate having
clients come to my house in the first place, let alone in the middle of
the night. Meeting with them (in the daytime) is often difficult
because they often work at home too, so there's no office to go to.

When working with individuals or very small companies, I've found that I
have to lead the client. I assumed (erroneously) that if someone had
submitted a similar grant that he/she would understand the process,
including the writing process. Nope. For example, my most recent
client was re-submitting a failed grant. It was a really interesting
project, but the first proposal was a horrible mess. When I gave the
client the first draft (after he had approved the outline), he gave me
corrected copy NOT based on my draft, but on his earlier proposal. I
guess I have to tell people that they must edit MY draft. This seems
obvious to me, sort of like telling someone to open the door before they
go outside.

With this last project, I wrote up a project plan (what someone else on
this list called an open action log). It included everyone's
responsibilities, dependencies, and deadlines. I forgot that most
people don't read this sort of thing, so next time I'm going to go over
it verbally as well. I'll do the same with the letter of agreement.
This was done at a distance, so we didn't go over it line by line, but I
will from now on. It stated clearly that I'd bill in two-week
increments, and that invoices were due within two weeks. It also said
this on the invoices. Yesterday, 4 weeks after the last invoice was
sent, I had to call to ask why I hadn't been paid. I knew he'd received
a grant to pay me, and that the grant had already been approved. He was
surprised to learn that payment was due so soon. "We're just a small
company," he whined. Me too.


If others of you do these small grants, how do you lead the client? Do
you have written guidelines? I just wrote up a two-page guideline sheet
for clients, but I have no real hope that they'll read it unless I go
over it line by line.

What kinds of contracts and billing procedures do you use? The most
recent project was the first one where I'd written a letter of
agreement, spelling out what I would do for the client (e.g., I've found
that I have to specify that I will not write the budget or type up the
forms). When I do contract work, which is where most of my income comes
from, I use the client's letters of agreement, not my own.

I could go on, but I'd better shut up.

By the way, I'm going to the STC meeting in Toronto, and to the dinner.
I'd really like to talk to other proposal writers. Of course, I also
want to talk to other contractors/freelancers, and people who write
instructional materials, and performance consultants, and anyone else
doing anything interesting that I want to learn how to do. Can you tell
I'm looking forward to the conference?


Mary Howe
Thunder Works, Inc.
Writing and Editing Services
thunder -at- idir -dot- net

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